Many people think that if you “just get sober”, all of your problems will stop. While ending an active addiction will absolutely put a stop to several different issues related to your health and well being, the act of no longer using is not a fix-all.
If you participated in a treatment program, you will know that it takes hard work and dedication to not only quit using but to also sustain a lifestyle free of substance abuse. Simply stopping use does not make all of the emotional, physical, and mental effects of substance use disorder magically disappear. Instead, each individual aspect of your addiction needs to be examined and dealt with in a manner that makes this disease manageable.
For many in recovery, maintaining it is the greatest challenge. Some days might flow perfectly, while others can be a mixed up jumble of things. The days in between can bring a combination of good and bad, and try to navigate through all of it is not always easy. Because of this, several people in recovery relapse.
Relapse is a part of the disease of addiction that no one ever wants for themselves. Many people who relapse struggle with feeling shameful and guilty for their actions, making it even more difficult to advocate for themselves and their recovery. While it is common to feel this way after relapsing, it is important to understand that relapse is a part of the recovery process. It is something that can happen to anyone at any time. The most critical thing one can do when a relapse occurs is get help to get back on track.
Common Relapse Triggers
Relapse can occur for several different reasons. If you are in recovery, you have probably heard of HALT, the acronym that stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These four things are some of the most common relapse triggers that you may experience, and it is possible to experience them all simultaneously. Being aware of HALT and how it can trigger relapse can help you prevent that from occurring.
HALT is just one of the many relapse triggers that you may experience. Other highly common triggers can include the following:
When you complete rehab, you may feel highly confident – maybe even too confident. This is not abnormal, as several people get a sense of grandiosity after ending their active addiction. However, if you are unable to check your ego at the door, you are at increased risk for suffering a relapse. This is because the more boastful you are of yourself, the less likely you are to remain humble about your addiction, which is usually when triggers can occur. For example, if your ego has you feeling as though you are above doing the footwork to maintain your sobriety, your lack of focus on your recovery can ultimately lead to relapse, as you are not caring for your needs during this time.
No matter who you are and what your background is, you are going to experience stress. Whether it comes from your workplace, your family, and friends, or even your own emotional turmoil, stress can be a major relapse trigger.
There is no getting around feeling stressed, however, there are ways in which you can manage it. Should you decide not to implement coping strategies to combat stress, you leave yourself vulnerable to getting caught up in the effects of stress and turning to drugs and/or alcohol to cope.
Your active addiction has probably taught you that socially isolating yourself can be one of the worst things that you can do for yourself. When you are in recovery, social isolation continues to be something that you should avoid at all costs. Yes, you will have days where you want to do nothing but hole up and shut out the world. However, making that a habit only isolates you from a support system that can help you continue to succeed in your recovery. If you do not foster those relationships and nurture your social life, you are automatically predisposed to relapsing.
One of the biggest rules of recovery is to avoid making any large life changes within the first year of recovery. This can include a residential move, getting into a relationship, changing jobs, or doing anything that dramatically alters your normal life. The reason it is often encouraged to avoid major changes is that of the mental, physical, and emotional toll it can take on your wellbeing. Your life is already undergoing significant changes during the beginning phases of your recovery, so adding more to your plate can trigger you to go back to using to manage all of this change.
In recovery, you are going to think about your past use and your addiction. There is no other way to learn how to manage your disease without doing so. However, glamorizing your addiction or thinking fondly of it is a serious issue. Reminiscing about past substance abuse in a manner that ignores all of the negative effects it caused is very dangerous, as doing so can make you more susceptible to use once more. Plus, these thoughts often lead to a chain of other thoughts and behaviors that can eventually cause you to relapse.
What If I Relapse?
Above all else, it is important to understand that relapse is a part of the disease of addiction. How you handle your relapse, however, will determine how successful you will be in your recovery.
If you do relapse, do not beat yourself up. This disease is extremely challenging to live with, and no one, regardless of how long they have been sober, is exempt from the possibility of relapsing. The most important thing you can do in the event of a relapse is admitting that you have relapsed to a member of your support system. Other things you can do include going to meetings, take accountability for your actions in a public forum (such as at a 12-Step meeting or in front of family), and reaching out to your therapist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional.
You do not need to throw away all of your hard work just because you relapsed. Reach out for help and utilize the support of your friends and loved ones to get back on track.
If you need help, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you.